Here’s how I think the epic sport of Colombian Tejo originated. A couple guys were pretty buzzed drinking aguardiente (a famous Colombian spirit) on a Sunday afternoon trying to think of what to do. One guy suggests they throw rocks into a pit of mud from quite a far distance. As more and more aguardiente is consumed the competition heightens and one man suggests assigning points to whoever can get their rock closest to the middle. The drunken male brain is often an easy thing to predict, so the logical progression from rocks, mud, and competition would quite logically be explosions. So when one of the founders of the sport suggested placing firecrackers that explode on impact in the center of the mud pit, Tejo was born!
Modern Tejo has developed significantly since its origination. All throughout Colombia one can find Tejo courts. These consist of two square shaped pits across from each other. They are equipped with a metal ring stuck in the center of the thick mud and a firecracker inside of it. Rocks have been replaced by heavy weights and there are now tools to flatten the mud after a shot and boards to keep score. The object of the game is to get your weight in the mud pit and closest to the circle. There are large bonuses if you get it in the center circle or create an explosion with the firecracker. The distance in which you throw is shockingly far, especially because everyone is inebriated and throwing weights at head level!
I had a number of experiences playing Tejo in a variety of cities throughout Colombia, but one in particular sticks out in my mind. Down south in Colombia resides a sleepy little town called Silvia where there’s not a whole lot going on. The town is known for it’s colorful indigenous people who wear bowler hats and come into the city from the surrounding mountains to trade goods. One evening a friend and I decided to go out and see what the locals of this little down do for fun at night. After asking around to see if we could find a Tejo spot, we were directed to a shady dark road with a building under construction. A narrow alley opened up to a large dirt floored area where a number of people were playing Tejo. The games seemed to stop for a moment when these two strange gringos entered, but then some friendly locals came and asked us what we were doing. They were shocked that we even knew what the game was called, so when we told them we were experienced they were quite amused. We were told we could play a game if we bought a drink, so we ordered a couple beers. To our dismay when we mentioned beers the guy in charge looked at us as if he’d just caught us in bed with his daughter. He firmly told us that only aguardiente was to be consumed during Tejo, and that we should purchase a bottle. We didn’t really have any choice so we obliged and continued to play a couple rounds of Tejo. Not sure why, but two local guys were assigned to us. One guy held the bottle and poured us shots after every round (while taking one for himself) while the other fetched the Tejo (weight) for us. Tejos were flying through the air and in our case often sparking against the concrete instead of plopping in the mud, but the locals were friendly and tried to give us tips to improve our technique.